How easily discouraged are you? When things don’t go your way, or when people don’t agree with you, or you meet resistance to your ideas or beliefs, how do you respond? Do you become quiet? Do you give up? Do you turn away in anger? In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear about St. Paul the Apostle and his experience of preaching the Good News.
He’s down in the city of Laodicea, a thriving commercial town in southern Turkey. He’s bringing the Good News to the people there and at first it seems they were receptive. Then some Jews come down from nearby Iconium and Antioch and turn the people against Paul. They don’t just get the crowed to stop listening, they incite the them to stone him; then they drag his apparently dead body outside the city walls and dump it. A few of his remaining friends follow the crowd out of the city so they can bury him. But, much to their surprise, his friends discover that Paul is still alive, though battered, bruised and unconscious. As soon as Paul wakes up, he heads right back into the city. Then, he continues his mission, returning to Antioch and Iconium and then off to other towns in the region: Lystra, Derbe, Perga and the regions of Pisidia and Pamphylia. We’re told many people came to believe in the Gospel as a result of Paul’s visits and preaching.
What remarkable commitment to the Gospel. It is no wonder the Gospel spread rapidly given the deep commitment Paul, Barnabas and the other Apostles and Disciples had to witnessing to the resurrection and teachings of Jesus Christ. Nothing would deter them from spreading the Good News.
They certainly have set a high bar for those of us who follow in their footsteps. But their fearless witness and great success encourage us to let go of our fears and rely on God’s presence in those we meet.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.